UnitedHealth Group's Stephen Hemsley: Telemedicine innovation begins with fundamentals

Consumers, especially those new to the insurance marketplace, will be the most important factor in how the healthcare industry evolves and how organizations use health information technology, according to UnitedHealth Group President and CEO Stephen Hemsley.

Speaking Monday at the American Telemedicine Association's annual meeting in Baltimore, Hemsley talked about the role of telemedicine in the future of healthcare from a broad perspective and detailed how it works at his organization.

In terms of the former, he said that telemedicine will grow in risk-bearing accountable care and capitated provider organizations. As for his own organization, he said that UnitedHealth Group conducts 350,000 virtual interactions daily, including monitoring 20,000 heart patients and 4,000 home visits.

Hemsley, however, said that that more needs to be done, adding that monitoring 20,000 heart patients a day is "not enough."

"We need to clarify who we monitor and why," he said.

What's more, Hemsley said operation of telemedicine on a fundamental level is vital for growth.

"Executing on the fundamentals leads to opportunity for innovation," he said. "If you don't execute on the basics, no one will take you seriously. You are not born with innovation rights; you have to earn them by executing."

Hemsley said that UnitedHealth Group takes innovation very seriously and that he expects people to dedicate their careers to the pursuit of it.

UnitedHealth Group already has aligned with several mobile app providers, including CareSpeak Communications, whose app helps patients to manage chronic disease and related medication through two-way messaging; LoseIt!, which aids with weight management; and Fitbit, which monitors and tracks healthy activities. UnitedHealth Group's Health4Me app also helps users both in finding providers and managing their accounts via tracking of deductible spending.

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